Thursday, November 25, 2010

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

British Vice-Chancellors demand that the government decide quickly on the details concerning the future financing of universities. Details here. My suspicions are that Parliament will pass legislation raising the cap on tuition fees substantially (despite a small revolt/abstention by some Liberal Democrats). The vote probably won't boost support for the Tories, but may have a positive effect on Labour who look set to benefit handsomely from voter defections from the Liberal Democrats: the Lib Dems had vowed to fight any increase in tuition fees only a few months ago during the general election.

Liberal Democrats will hope that voters see the overall positive narrative of their effect on Tory policies more widely, overlooking this change of stance on university fees. If they support a fee rise, then the benefit is getting their way on other measures and the cost is greatly upsetting their base. If they do not support a rise, the benefit is pleasing their base while greatly upsetting their coalition partners and perhaps many universities. I suspect the costs of support are far greater than the costs of opposing a rise, although I think the party (wrongly) believes otherwise.

However, the real debating point is the curious silence of many British university leaders on the Browne Report. As unions, lecturers, university students, and school students cry out in protest -- whatever happened to our university leaders? We can only wonder.

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